In a word, YES.
Employers have a lot of leeway to require health and safety measures in the workplace. There is no specific law or regulation which prohibits an employer from requiring any vaccine, flu, polio, measles, or COVID19. Given how easily COVID can sweep through a workplace, particularly one that deals with the public or where folks are in close quarters, the very survival of the business could be at stake.
Some workers may pose individual issues, however. For example, if a worker has a medical condition (disability) that makes it dangerous for them to get a vaccine, and the company is covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), then the company might be required to offer them a reasonable accommodation to getting a vaccine. The company and the worker should engage in an interactive process to determine reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation is one that allows the worker to perform the essential functions of their job despite their disability. For vaccines, reasonable accommodations are going to depend on the worker’s job is and its essential functions. If an accommodation can make the worker “safe” and not facilitate transmission without unreasonable operational or financial cost, then the company should implement the accommodation. Reasonable accommodations in this context could be remote work, additional personal protective equipment (“PPE”), different working times, increase sanitation, working separately, or any other accommodation which might fit the situation. Some workers might have a sincerely held religious, ethical, or moral belief that prohibits them from taking a vaccine. Depending on the facts, the company might choose a reasonable accommodation or face a discrimination lawsuit if it fires the worker over this religious belief. These cases are very complex and require careful evaluation of the specific facts at issue.
The ultimate question is: “Whether it is a good or bad business decision to require employees to get the vaccine?” Some workforces might balk at coming to work without such a mandate. Other workers might balk at the requirement itself. Customers might also have strong feelings either way. Union Collective Bargaining Agreements might also address such a requirement. Business considerations might take precedence over all these individual legal issues. In any case, in 99% of cases, workers will have to live with the decision.
-Alan G. Crone Founder of The Crone Law Firm, Alan is our Team Leader. Whether he’s helping achieve a business dream or seeking compensation for someone who’s been treated unfairly, he draws from a deep well of compassion and experience. He’s a master at devising winning strategies and innovative tactics.